tv U.S. Senate Sen. Coons on Iran War Powers Resolution CSPAN February 13, 2020 9:02am-9:13am EST
the stakes are too high. we cannot wait until the next time he orders a strike he can't justify with consequences no one can predict. we cannot wait until the next time he gambles with american soldiers' lives. now is the time to set straight the boundaries, not only for this president, but for future ones as well. now is the time to vote, to vote for this resolution and to send the president a message that there is no support in congress for an unconstitutional war of his own making. madam president, i yield the floor and madam president, i yield the floor. >> madam president, i come to the floor today to add my voice to the debate on the system of checks and balances that are essential to, that define our very democracy. i am here in no small part because of a series of events
that unfolded slowly over 40 years and then with a sharper tempo near the end of last year and culminated in a strike by u.s. forces on january 3rd that killed general soleimani of the force of the rigc of iran. that precipitated hearings and debates among senators and within our constituents in the country and today, an of an important 51-45 vote to proceed, we have debating this measure. this measure senate joint resolution 68 from senators caine, durbin, lee and paul to remove forces from hostilities against the republic of iran. i want to make remarks about
the role of congress. in my view we're at a critical inflection point in our nation -- to be clear i do not seek a war between the united states and iran. i think our best path forward is a multilateral, several nations coming together initiative to deescalate rising conflict between the united states and iran with so many-- with tens of millions of people displaced from their homes around the world from conflicts ranging from syria and yemen, to the democratic republic of the congo, the central african republic. there's conflict in many places in our world and our country has seen what happens in the absence of effective diplomacy. but i came to the floor today really in no small part because in the group briefings that happened after the strike that killed general soleimani. a number of points were made that i think deserve to be
addressed. one, a suggestion was made by one participant that simply debating whether or not the authorization for the use of military force that was adopted by congress back in 2001 or 2002, simply debating whether or not that authorized this strike, simply questioning whether or not this strike should be authorized and future actions authorized by this congress would weaken the morale of our troops, would send a signal to our enemies and adversaries of a lack of resolve by our nation, and so, we in congress should simply allow the president under article 2, which gives to him, the commander-in-chief responsibility, to simply exercise the overwhelming capabilities of the united states and our tremendous armed forces to keep safe and push back on our adversaries and i don't think anything could be further from the truth. i actually think it's strengthsens our democracy when we engage in a robust and
vigorous debate on this question. i actually think showing that we have confidence in our constitution and that we in the senate realize that over decades we have gradually allowed our central role in authorizing war to be weakened that retaking some of that role is, in fact, showing confidence in our democracy. so let me be clear up front, i support the men and women of the united states armed forces and i have great confidence in their ability to carry out their mission. i am clear-eyed about the threat that iran, the islamic republic of iran poses to our interests to the region and to the world as one of the world's great state sponsors of terrorism, as one of the great sources of instability in the region, as a country that for 40-plus years has been genuinely opposed to much of what the united states believes in and tries to do in the region. i am clear-eyed both about supporting our troops and about the threat posed by iran.
but if we are to do right by the men and women of the united states armed forces, who we ask to go around the world and to serve us and to sacrifice for us and to keep us safe, we can do no less than an ask whether we're sending them with the full support of the american people. and this senate joint resolution 68 begins with a simple, but important finding, congress has the sole power to declare war under article 1, section 8, clause 11 of the united states constitution and congress has not yet declared war upon, nor enacted a specific statutory authorization for the use of military force against iran. that makes a simple point. previous administrations of both parties have overused the authorization for the use of military force passed here in 2001 and 2002. a majority of the currently
serving members were not present for the debates that led to those authorizations and the fact patterns and circumstances that led to their being adopted have long since passed into history. and so, if we, in this chamber, are to exercise our responsible role, we shouldn't simply let the president take the responsibility and possibly the blame for the conduct overseas, but we should take that responsibility back on ourselves. in 2001, congress utilized force against al qaeda based onned deadly strikes against our territory that happened on 9/11, but did not authorize the use of force against iran. in 2002, congress did the same against saddam hussein's iraq, which is one of iran's greatest enemies, then and now. and so, frankly, i think to suggest that either of these former authorizations for the use of military force or aumf
authorized this action, goes way beyond its scope. i have heard from hundreds of constituents at home in delaware, their rising anxiety and concern, and i've heard from many, both currently serving and formerly serving that we should do our job, that congress has a role, that we need to debate and demand a strategy from this administration and a path forward that we can articulate and defend. we are in a scenario now where the possibility of military conflict between the united states and iran is entirely forseeable. president trump has drawn a line in the sand much as his predecessor did and said, we will never let iran have a nuclear weapon. and with the united states having withdrawn from the iran nuclear deal, jcpoa and with iran and our european allies increasingly farther and
farther apart on their conduct and with iran restarting centrifuges and restarting enrichment, it is not an unforseeable moment that whether weeks or months or years from now, but quite possibly months, a team from the senior ranks of our military will go to the president and say, here is a range of options that might include striking iran. that is a fact pattern that requires congress to have provided authorization. yes, i recognize that there are exigencies, there are emergencies, there are moments and the president must take action to authorize our armed forces, to strike in order to defend our troops and defend our interests at home and abroad, but this entirely forseeable scenario, one which we should all be working to avoid, but which is forseeable which is exactly why i'm supporting the bipartisan resolution introduced by senators caine and lee.
the united states senate must take back its responsibility for authorizing our armed forces to protect us overseas and we need to show clear-eyed support for our armed forces and for the path forward. trump, like all presidents before him, does not have the authority to wage war without consulting this congress and democrats and republicans are concerned about this administration's apparent indifference towards congress and its critical role in deciding matters of war and peace. the house has just passed two measures to restrict the president's war making powers. the senate needs to have that same debate, that same discussion, and needs to take up and pass this resolution. this is how our system of government works best, through respectful disagreement and thoughtful debate and both to express the will of the american people. so let me close by saying this, to service members whom i meet
in delaware, to many more serving around the country and around the world, war should be our last resort, and if diplomacy should fail in this case or others, i will insist our administration produce a clear strategy and a mission for our troops and our servicemen and women can accomplish and that our congress provides our military with the resources and authorities they need. we are blessed with a system of democratic government and challenges though, in times when stakes are highest to rise to the occasion and to earn our place in the history of this democratic republic. we do that by reaffirming our faith in our constitution, including article 1, which gives to this body the responsibility to weigh vital decisions of war and peace. >> madam president, debates between executive branch and congress over the power to conduct war is not a new topic, but i think in many ways, this debate has been blown out of